Fantasy Riser: Speedy Tarik Cohen Could Sprint Up Draft Boards

The Bears offense is in desperate need of improvement in 2020. SI Fantasy analyst Matt De Lima believes Tarik Cohen can be a part of that positive change, and in turn, provide excellent fantasy value.
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The year was 2018. Saquon Barkley edged out Christian McCaffrey to finish aas the top PPR back. Patrick Mahomes threw for 5,000 yards and 50 TDs. Todd Gurley’s knees hadn’t yet caused him to mostly disappear in the playoffs that year. Ah, memories. It was a simpler time!

So simple in fact that the Chicago Bears were pretty good. I know, I had forgotten too. It seems like so long ago. The Bears ended up 12-4, winning the NFC North. They fell one point short in a Wild Card loss to then-defending champion Philadelphia Eagles by virtue of the infamous “Double Doink” from Cody Parkey.

This Bears offense was not going to wow anyone. Jordan Howard led the team in rushing (935 yards, 9 TDs). Mitch Trubisky also stepped up in his second season, passing for 3,223 yards with 24 TDs and 12 INTs. The real catalyst that year was the Bears defense, led by big free agent signing LB Khalil Mack. That tectonic shift forward in the defense allowed the Bears to simplify the offense, and take fewer risks.

One of the main beneficiaries of that change was RB Tarik Cohen. Entering his second season, the 5-foot-6 pass-catcher had already shown some promise his rookie season. Cohen started slow in 2018 then had an excellent showing in Week 4 where he had 13 carries for 53 yards plus seven receptions for 121 yards and a TD. He finished with 71 receptions, 1,169 total yards, and 8 total TDs, making him the RB10 in most PPR leagues.

Despite finishing with more receptions in 2019 (79), the combined yardage (669) and TD (3) totals derailed Cohen from a strong finish last year.

My optimism boils down to one thing here: speed. That’s what Cohen brings to the table.

tarik adp

Cohen will be directed by new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The Bears and Cohen certainly need a fresh start after a forgettable 2019 season. The diminutive back will also be in a contract year and looking to prove himself after his down year. In a recent Bear Digest article from Gene Chamberlain, Cohen said:

"It's definitely a motivating factor being that this is [a contract] year," Cohen said. "I feel like I can't put any pressure on nobody else. It's all on me. That's how I like to go about it. I just take it upon myself, anything else like, I want to win as a team. I feel like if we win as a team that is good for everybody's individual success."

Again noted by Chamberlain in a recent article about Cohen’s usage, in Week 1 of last season, the Bears used Cohen in the slot on 40 plays, at wide receiver seven times and in the backfield four times.

In the article, Bears running back coach Charles London said the following: 

"Tarik is excited about this upcoming year. We're putting last year behind us and we're just going to move forward. He knows that I've got his back and we’re going to do whatever we [think is] best for Tarik as far as in the offense and whatever that may entail."

I think we’ve about reached his ADP peak (97) after bottoming out about six weeks ago (122). If we consider his 2018 season as his ceiling (RB10) and 2019 as his floor (RB27), Cohen is an extreme value as the 41st RB off the board. Can we fairly assume it won’t get worse? Not really.

The Bears haven’t done a whole lot to overhaul the offense and they have a slightly below-average offensive line. What we’re looking for is more lining up in the backfield for screens and dump-offs.

The Bears, for some reason, lined him up too often like a wideout in 2019. That seemed to throw off his mojo and his yards per reception dipped significantly.

Given his ADP, you can grab Cohen as your RB4 in PPR. I think he should be off your radar in standard scoring and only a late-round flier in half-PPR. The reception totals will help buoy his scores but what we need here are more touchdowns and more yards, which never came at all last season (0 games with more than 60 receiving yards, 0 games with 90 total yards). 

It still holds good value even with his rising ADP and someone I’m targeting in Round 10 and beyond.